Thelma and Louise Go to Mexico, Almost, Then Turn Left
You may think you'll never be driving down the interstate with trance music on the radio, attempting one-handed to put shoes on a stuffed donkey, but road trips with a 2-year-old can get a little Twin Peaks. Thus, the icon for our Third Annual Mother-Daughter Thelma-and-Louise Adventure is the giant truck-mounted papier-mache head, above, spotted outside the Iga Del Sol grocery ("Iga of the Sun") in Yuma, Ariz.
Actually, Alex was a very good traveling companion, but now that California has banned kids in the front seat, I had to get inventive about entertaining her on the long days in the Golden State. Dance music helped.
We saw some different scenery this summer because the first task of the trip was dropping David off at the Mexican border to start this year's Pacific Crest Trail hike. We spent three nights at Mount Laguna, about 50 miles inland from San Diego, then on Day 4 we let David go and headed east on Interstate 8. North at Yuma to Interstate 40, right turn, and straight on to Albuquerque. Left at Albuquerque (thanks, Bugs), up I-25 to Fort Collins. Four days there. Back home on I-80. Some notes:
- In the Mount Laguna area, a regionalism new to us: art and messages created by poking drink cups in the diamonds of chain-link fences.
- The California/Arizona border may be one of the last patches in America where you don't find a Starbucks every three blocks. You do, however, see self-serve purified-water kiosks about that often. Farther north, in Quartzsite, Ariz., there was even an establishment that appeared from the road to be called Purified Water Hotel & Restaurant. It had another name on a smaller sign, but apparently the water was the selling point.
- In the Yuma, Ariz., Chamber of Commerce, a few miles from Mexico, we thought we had finally spotted the pin David wanted for his hiking hat, the crossed U.S.-Mexico flags. But it turned out to be U.S.-Canada flags. (Marty G. asks, re: Yuma, "Are the residents ... Yumans?")
- Driving north from Yuma, I had flashbacks to the first driving trips I remember, when I was a little kid living in Tempe. It was the landscape: saguaro, ocotillo, tumbleweeds everywhere.
- We've gotten quite good at spotting playgrounds, partly because every town these days buys their safe-and-sane equipment from the same company. You almost never see merry-go-rounds or metal slides. Our favorite playground graffito, from Parker, Ariz.: "Tyran is a bictoh." Doesn't hold a candle to the all-time best graffito insult, "Hill is a liverlip goose," Thrall, Wash.
- Sunrise near Winslow, Ariz., made wonderful by the looming full-size dinosaurs at random intervals in the gloom, an advertisement for some nearby museum. Picked up KCBS from San Francisco on the radio. No news on chili finger, so we moved on.
- The trend these days in broadcast radio seems to be stations with a man's name that declare proudly to play whatever they want to, no requests, no corporate playlist. We heard Jack in Southern California, Ed in New Mexico, Bobs in Reno and Sacramento. Are they all the same company? Reno Bob claimed to be locally owned. Ed seemed the most idiosyncratic.
- We recommend the El Kapp Motel in Raton, N.M. ("Rat Town," we called it when I worked at Philmont). For one thing, the rate was right and the proprietor very nice. For another: the name. What does it mean? Is that El waving his gimme cap on the neon sign? For a third: the greenest '50s-vintage bathroom you have ever seen, down to the spearmint toilet.
- It was a bright, sunny morning in Rat Town. It was partly cloudy but dry on Rat Town Pass. It was dumping snow in Walsenburg. It was 20 degrees at noon with ice crusties on the overpasses in Colorado Springs. It snowed the first three days we were in Fort Collins, but that was actually kind of nice, because I haven't been back there much in the snow. It was odd for Fort Collins, though, not because it was May but because it hung around so long. Snowstorms there are usually one day, then off to Kansas. Thank you, Auntie Em, for wardrobing Alex. Guess we didn't need all those shorts.
- The King Soopers near Fountain, Colo., (you might be a Coloradan if ... you can say King Soopers with a straight face) is a big one, with not only the full drugstore section but an outside area of livestock feed. The whiteboard lists the offerings: Alfalfa bales. Rabbit chow. Chicken feed. Whole cats. Wait, what? Now, that's not right, is it, because what animal would eat .... Next item: rolled cats. Whole cats. And rolled cats. Ah. Little finger-swipe editing there on the whiteboard.
Until the big Hatteras blowout, our trips will be to Southern California and back. Not that there aren't delights to be found there (see left). The deer were really cute, but, we have to say, the car was kind of slimy afterward. And the fragrance wasn't pine, if you get my drift.